- By ERIC SAMUEL -
PETALING JAYA: Just one game into the season – a 3-2 loss to Pahang – and the so-called “dream team” of Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) have been ordered not to speak to the media.
It seems that Johor FA president and JDT chairman Tengku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has issued a gag order on the players following the unexpected defeat by the newly-promoted Elephants.
Expectations had been high on JDT following their close-season splurge on local and foreign big names.
Among the marquee names in the JDT team are former Spanish international Daniel Guiza and local aces Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Safee Sali, Safiq Rahim, Mohd Zaquan Adha, Mohd Aidil Zafuan, Azmi Muslim, Muslim Ahmad and Nurul Azwan Roya.
Everything looked rosy in the first half of the match against Pahang as JDT took a 2-0 lead, courtesy of Norshahrul and Safiq. But the Elephants came charging back after the breather to score three goals through Mohd Fauzi Roslan (two) and R. Surendran.
It’s obvious that Tunku Ismail now wants his players and coach Fandi Ahmad to do the talking on the pitch and redeem themselves in front of the home fans when they take on Perak at the Larkin Stadium tonight.
And Perak coach Mohd Azraai Khor Abdullah has warned his men to be prepared for a backlash.
“In the opening game, JDT could afford to start without Safee until late into the game. This time, I’m sure they’ll field their best starting 11 and have a go at us,” said Azraai yesterday.
“But we have nothing to lose, just like Pahang. In fact, we are motivated to play against a big team. I hope we won’t return home empty-handed.”
But it won’t be easy for Perak, who edged T-Team 1-0 in their opening game in Lumut on Tuesday, as they’ll have to play without several key men, including new French striker Karim Rouani (hamstring), skipper Shahrulnizam Mustapha (ankle surgery), striker S. Chanturu (knee) and defender V. Thirumurugan (knee).
Azraai, who admitted that it would be an acid test for his men, will be counting on central defender Rafael Novais of Brazil to hold the fort in defence.
“We have plenty of respect for the big boys of Johor … but we won’t be pushovers,” warned Azraai.
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